“Wait for me”, he had begged, and she had agreed that she would. She thinks she suspected, even then, that he wasn’t coming back. He hadn’t seemed like his usual self, he was troubled and agitated. Of course something had happened. But maybe she was constructing the story she wanted. Perhaps she hadn’t realised, she thought he just wanted to blow off some steam. He hadn’t returned with that “something heavy” that he was going to fetch, not that night, nor any night since.
She could have gone back, the penitent daughter. She was ruined, of course. Running away like that with Peer Gynt of all people! Like Ingrid, who couldn’t go outside without facing people’s whispers and disapproving stares, who had lost her husband and the chance of a good life. The thought of coming back and be scolded and punished like a child, to face that small, insular, close-minded community, to be gossiped about and snubbed, made her flinch. They would tear him from her and her from him, with ill words and ill deeds. They would turn her from what she was and make her someone else. No, she wouldn’t. Better to remain here and be free from all that. She had made her choice, and would stick to it. After all, she had promised. When Peer came back, and he would, she was sure of it, he wouldn’t find her faithless.
It wouldn’t be easy. She hadn’t been raised to do much hard work, and she would have nobody to help her. She found she rather enjoyed the prospect of taking care of herself. It would be a challenge, unlike most of her life up to this point.
If only she had someone so she wouldn’t be so lonely! Sometimes, she had almost wavered. But then she thought of Peer, and how he would come back and find the cottage empty, and how that would devastate him.
If his mother… but no, she was dead. There was no use on dwelling on “what-ifs”. But still, if Mrs. Åse had lived, they could have lived here together. Solveig could have provided for her. What was more fitting than this: that the two women who knew what it was to love Peer Gynt should live together? They who loved all of him, his playfulness, his charm, his irresponsibility, his lies.
He was excitement and freedom, and he had led her here, so this was where she would remain. This, to provide for herself, to be her own person, to live life, not for others, but despite them, was what Peer had taught her. And still, the ever-present paradox: in living her life despite others, she lived for Peer Gynt.
He had always been good to her, whatever he may be, a braggart and a liar, but he had shown her who she was and who she could be. He had made her into an adult, who made her own decisions and lived by the consequences. To go back, to leave him, would be to say that none of that mattered, to still be a child. She wouldn’t do that. Not now, not when she had realised what it meant to be her own person, to be Solveig and nothing else. To know who she was and to accept it – it was freeing. She wished Peer could know it too. She would teach him, if he would let her. She would be his anchor, as soon as he realised that that was what he wanted. Be his way long or short, she would wait. That was what she had promised, and that was what she would do. She had time. She had her purpose, she knew what she wanted. Here, in the little cottage in the woods, she was free to be who she was. She was the woman who loved Peer Gynt. She was Solveig. She was herself.